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Lisa McInerney: Pop culture in 2013 was full of wacky antics, highs, lows... and deceptive depth

Appropriated Twerking, Joffrey Bieber and the Reign of The Selfie… 2013 was full of ostensibly casual moments over which we could bond and track how our society is changing.

Lisa McInerney

SO 2013 IS coming to an end and it’s time for us all to pause, blink, and wildly tot up exactly what pop culture taught us this year. Oh, you may laugh, but pop culture is the window to the collective soul, and clearly in 2013 we yearned for high-waisted PVC knickers, convulsive dance moves and tornadoes made of sharks. Hey, it’s a rich tapestry.
Here’s what we learned from the land of bubblegum and froth in 2013.

1. All dancing is open to interpretation

We’ll remember 2013 for two equally irritating crazes: the Harlem Shake (That Wasn’t Really A Harlem Shake), and Appropriated Twerking. The first was a meme, and so thankfully as short-lived as it was obnoxious, like the Crazy Frog or a dose of the trots. The second was the requisition of sexually suggestive squatting by pallid pop stars desperate to shake a squeaky-clean persona. The most intolerable was Miley Cyrus, who yanked twerking into the mainstream with a performance at the VMAs in which she saw fit to hump a novelty foam hand. She went on to be satirised by the equally urban (i.e. not very urban at all) Lily Allen, who appointed professional dancers to twerk while she sang about how twerking was shit. Was there ever a dance to polarise the masses so? Well, yes. It was called the Macarena and it was a million times worse because your nana could do it (Nanas, please don’t twerk. There’s a safer way to make a compete tit of yourself: Prancercise™).

On home shores, Linda Martin murdered song of the year ‘Get Lucky’ on the Saturday Night Show, jazzing it up with some awkward hip-shimmying. Those who managed to see enough of her performance through their fingers judged it ill-advised and watched Stephen Colbert waggle his arse to the anthem with Bryan Cranston instead. Proving, perhaps, that you don’t have to be a professional dancer to have moves; you just need to not be Linda Martin.

Then there was Beyoncé, who became enraged when unflattering photographs of her dancing at her Super Bowl show appeared on Buzzfeed. Though the writers of the piece were merely paying homage to Bey’s fierceness, Bey proved to be distressingly deficient in the humour department, and subsequently banned press photographers from her Mrs Carter world tour lest more unbecoming images of her making stupid faces mid-routine appear on the world wide web and shatter her congregation. The point is that dancing, once thought of as the physical portrayal of joy, is VERY SUPER SERIOUS, and Beyoncé just plum ain’t going to do it if we’re going to snigger at her.

2. Popularity makes terrible people more terrible

There was a disproportionate amount of monstrous carry-on from stars this year. Justin Bieber abandoned his monkey, allegedly threatened DJs and was rumoured to have visited houses of ill-repute, leading to his being christened Joffrey Bieber by everyone over the age of twelve. Miley Cyrus, when she wasn’t licking hammers, publicly mocked the mental health of Amanda Bynes and Sinead O’Connor. Robin Thicke huffed that those who criticised his ridiculously sexist video for ridiculously sexist ditty Blurred Lines just didn’t get that it was an ode to blissful monogamy. Caitlin Moran made Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman read pornographic fan fiction at a Sherlock Q&A session, because homosexuality is a hoot and fangirls are tragic virgins who need public shaming. Shia LaBeouf, when he wasn’t being kicked in the crotch in London street brawls, “forgot” to credit Daniel Clowes, the artist whose concept, story and dialogue he ripped off for his own short film. A swathe of the constellation was only atrocious this year.

They could all do with taking lessons from the consistently delightful Jennifer Lawrence, the Oscar-winner who proved in 2013 that you can be goofy, elegant, funny, generous and talented all at the same time. Turns out it’s not all that difficult to NOT behave like there’s some douchebag quota you desperately need to fill in time for the Bigwigs Ball, no matter how lauded and cosseted you are.

3. Selfie was word of the year for a reason

The Oxford Dictionary announced that “selfie” was the word of 2013 (pipping “twerk” at the post, incidentally), and it’s hardly surprising. From Gaga’s dramatic Instagram account being flagged by her worried fans, to Beyoncé’s self-produced hagiographical documentary, 2013’s beautiful people showed us that image manipulation was no longer just for hardnosed agents and the Daily Mail. Most dedicated of the lot was the two-headed beast known as Kimye – Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – who set fans and bemused onlookers chewing on their own tongues with an excruciating music video for Bound 2, in which they simulated coitus on a motorbike. As your local Vikings chapter could tell you, that kind of carry-on is just asking for trouble.

4. Pop culture isn’t just the small stuff

From the outpouring of grief over the death of James Gandolfini, to the continued regard for Nigella Lawson despite a number of vicious allegations and confessions, it’s clear that a public figure does not – should not – automatically become a figure of fun or derision, and that the old adage which says we put people on pedestals only to knock them down isn’t always true. That we are, as a whole, appreciative of tremendous talent or a shining personality.

The success of sixteen-year-old Lorde changed what we expect from young musicians. The fact that the good deeds accredited to Pope Francis bled into the pop cultural awareness told us that popular inspiration can come from the most traditional sources. The support for Tom Daley, who came out as bisexual in one of the most viewed YouTube videos of the year, and the condemnation of those few trolls who took the opportunity to pitch homophobic vitriol, showed that we’re largely a good bunch who have bigger things to worry about than who an adult happens to love. The considered, engaged debate about mental health inspired by Conor Cusack showed our desire to move away from the days of shame and stigma. The success of Grand Theft Auto V, which made a billion dollars in sales after only three days, making it the biggest entertainment product ever, proved that what’s considered mainstream is apt to change a lot quicker than some of us would like to believe. With shows like Breaking Bad and Orange Is The New Black dominating watercooler waffle, the culture of risk-taking and character-centric writing in TV meant the small screen finally towered over its silver sibling.

And so we look forward to 2014, and another year of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll giving us more than brief distraction from the big news stories. That’s not to say we won’t pray for the eradication of the Sidebar of Shame and the retirement of loon-for-hire Katie Hopkins; we know there’s substance in the lighter stuff, but we’re not masochists… 2013 was full of ostensibly casual moments over which we could bond and track how our society is changing. So here’s to another year of PR bloat, wacky antics, highs, lows and deceptive depth.

Read more of Lisa McInerney’s columns here >

Read: Colin Farrell “never consummated” his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor

Read: Miley Cyrus, Pope Francis or Snowden? TIME magazine to reveal Person of the Year

We’re interested in your ideas and opinions – do you have a story you would like to see featured in Opinion & Insight? Email opinions@thejournal.ie

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Lisa McInerney

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